Engineering Construction Technician

The Job and What's Involved

The UK's engineering construction industry designs, constructs and maintains all types of process plant and buildings in a wide range of sectors, including:

  • Oil and gas - refineries, pipelines and offshore rigs.
  • Water - collection, treatment and distribution.
  • Environmental - waste disposal and recycling.
  • Materials - steel and metal, cement, glass, paper, polymers.
  • Brewing and distillation.
  • Food - production, storage and distribution.
  • Power generation - oil, gas, coal and hydroelectric.
  • Nuclear waste reprocessing.
  • Pharmaceutical production - medical products and hospital equipment.
  • Petrochemical and chemical.
  • Building construction.

Engineering construction technicians use a range of engineering, design and practical skills to erect and maintain the buildings, plant and machinery used in all these industries. The actual tasks involved will vary considerably depending on the sector in which the technician works and the responsibilities of the job.

They may be involved in putting up the various structures and large components that go to make up an industrial framework or building, or in assembling, installing and maintaining complex machinery such as that used in production lines. Working from engineering drawings they may work on projects to install and maintain the pipework that carries oil, gas, water or chemicals, cutting and welding pipes and working with sheet metal.

Technicians could also be involved in:

  • Assisting in the preparation of detailed design drawings for craftspeople to use in construction, often working with computer-aided design programs.
  • Inspecting and testing materials and components for defects, using techniques such as radiography and ultrasound.
  • Procurement of equipment and materials.
  • Recruiting people to work on a project.

Technicians are usually involved in large projects and work alongside teams of people including construction workers, craftspeople, engineers, project managers and designers.

The basic working week is 38 hours, but engineering construction technicians may need to work longer than this at certain times to meet deadlines. On offshore rigs, they normally work 12 hours on and 12 hours off for two weeks, followed by a two or three-week rest period onshore.

Technicians specialising in design, controlling projects or procurement usually work at the head office or a site office. Maintenance technicians may have to work outdoors in all weather conditions, and technicians who work on testing materials usually work in laboratories or out on site.

Starting salaries are around £14,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 50,000 people are employed in the engineering construction industry. In the UK, the type of site work has changed in the last decade, as fewer new build projects have been undertaken. Repair and maintenance work now makes up the majority of work in the sector. Technicians work in a wide range of industrial sectors, and could be working on projects anywhere in the UK or abroad.

Employment rates are relatively stable, but there are more applicants than vacancies for Apprenticeship schemes.

Job vacancies for these sectors are advertised in the trade publications relevant to the particular industry, and in magazines such as The Engineer and Engineering. There are many recruitment agencies that specialise in engineering appointments and jobs are advertised on internet recruitment sites.

Education and Training

Trainee technicians can join employers straight from school, either on an Apprenticeship scheme, or after taking a full or part-time course in an engineering or construction subject.

To train as a technician, most employers expect four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths and English. In Scotland S grades in maths, science and technology subjects are preferred.

Many young people start their careers on an Advanced Apprenticeship under the National Apprenticeship Scheme for Engineering Construction (NASEC), run by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB).

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training as a technician usually takes four years and consists of practical training on the job combined with attendance at college on day or block release to cover the more theoretical aspects. Most apprentices are aged 17 to 18 for the NASEC scheme. Many start their career as a craftsperson.

NASEC trains apprentices in two phases. Initial training takes place at an ECITB-approved centre where apprentices reach NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in their specialist skills.

These may be:

- Mechanical fitting
- Pipefitting
- Plating
- Welding
- Steel erecting
- Electrotechnical installation
- Mechanical maintenance
- Electrical maintenance
- Instrument and control maintenance
- Non-destructive testing - onshore technician training
- Design and draughting - onshore technician training.

For the second phase, they then go to an engineering construction site to gain practical experience.

They can also go on to take a City & Guilds or BTEC/SQA certificate.

Any previous qualifications are taken into account and apprentices can develop their own areas of specialisation. Apprentices are also certified in the key skill areas of communication, information technology and numeracy.

Technicians should aim to get the qualification EngTech. To achieve this they must register formally with the Engineering Council as an engineering technician, and will need:

  • An appropriate qualification such as a relevant NVQ/SVQ at Level 3, BTEC national certificate or diploma, or an SQA national certificate group award.
  • At least three years' work experience with responsibility, including suitable further training and development.
  • To be a member of the relevant professional institution, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) or Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).
  • To take a final test called a professional review.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Engineering construction technicians need to:

  • Understand and be able to produce accurate technical drawings.
  • Be good at maths, physics and, usually, computing.
  • Be creative and practical.
  • Work well as part of a team.
  • Be very aware of safety risks.
  • Be able to organise and prioritise projects.
  • Have good communication skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion prospects depend on the size of the company and the skills and experience of the technician.

Technicians can study further, often at degree level, and progress into management positions. The ECITB provides courses for new and experienced supervisors to widen their skills base.

It may also be possible to continue training for other branches of engineering and engineering design careers.

There may be opportunities to work overseas.

Get Further Information

Engineering Construction Industry Training Board,
Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP
Tel: 01923 260000
Website: www.ecitb.org.uk

The Engineering Council UK (ECUK),
246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
Website: www.engc.org.uk

The Institution of Engineering and Technology,
Michael Faraday House, Stevenage, Herts SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311
Website: www.theiet.org

SEMTA (Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 01923 238441
Website: www.semta.org.uk

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